Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ode to Char

First of all, Charlie is very fortunate that I'm only getting around to posting about his first birthday now. See, when Charlie turned one, he had a lot of growing up to do. Miraculously, he's dedicated the past 10 weeks to maturing significantly, probably because he didn't want his baby book to have a birthday entry from his mom reading, "Charlie is a tool. I can't believe I survived his horrific first year. Still love him, but don't always like him."

Instead, now that he's shaped up his act, his birthday entry will read the following:

"Charlie is cool. I can't believe I survived his terrific first year. Love him, and almost always like him."

But nothing I write ever approaches succinctness, so it will also read:

Charlie has taken me to the extremes. In his birth, I experienced the highest high of my life, and in its immediate aftermath endured the most exquisitely painful lows of my life. This set the pattern for mothering him ever since: a topsy turvy roller coaster of polar emotional states. One moment he's so irresistible I'm resisting the urge to asphyxiate him with love. The next moment my ears are ringing, my blood is boiling and I'm resisting the urge to asphyxiate him without love. (Actually, I should be serious here. I never injured him or felt very close to doing so, for which I have deity to thank.)

So many times, and not just a handful, but actually nearly every day for the first ten months of his life, I had episodes of exasperation, desperation, and near-despair. Kyle was always plucking my gray hairs. I feel I aged 10 years in one.

There's no getting around the reality that Charlie was an unusually demanding and emotionally draining baby. I'm not saying it doesn't get much harder than Char. All I mean is that my personal stress threshold was pushed to the limit; with the help of his brother, he wore the thickest parts of my patience thin. I wanted to be savoring every baby milestone like the moms around me. I wanted to talk wistfully about how my baby is growing up so fast. Really, though, I wanted Charlie to grow up as quickly as humanly possible (or non-humanly, if it came to that)!

Of course there were also times of delight and bliss. That extra maternal umph of love was always there, and that's what kept me loving him immensely despite it all. I write frankly about the difficulties of Charlie's first year to acknowledge that it's okay to not love every moment or even stage of motherhood. If I'd felt like I had to smile and feign maternal peace and well-being that I was so far from feeling inside, I would've only ended up miserable. So I did my best to stay afloat and be emotionally easy on myself, and I knew someday I would know it was all worth it.

The older Charlie has become, the happier we've both been. I just knew there was a streak of independence in that ridiculously clingy child that was waiting for the right moment to be unleashed. That time has come. He still follows me around the house, crying and tugging on my pants a lot (which is how he learned to walk), but there are also lots of times when he waddles off full-speed ahead and only looks back to flash me a proud grin. Actually, he has managed to be both my clingiest and my most curious/destructive toddler. So, we get the BEST of both worlds, right?

In earlier days, I loved Char for his snuggles, his perfect baby koala form, and for patting his mouth while singing (old-school Indian style). Now I love Char for his excellent posture while walking, for finally displaying an interest in toys made for babies, and really, truly, for snuggling. There is an advantage to a clingy baby, and that is it. We find him resting his head on and snuggling up to odd-shaped plastic toys, scratchy church walls, and even his big brother (at his own risk!). You know when he approaches you he's going in for a snuggle, yet even expecting it, my heart melts every time.

Love that little guy because, hey, we've been through a lot together. Plus he's pretty lovable.

And for reading all that (and even if you didn't), you've earned a photo re-cap of Char's first 14 months of life. (cue sentimental music...)


Emily said...

I CANNOT believe how grown up Charlie looks in the last picture. Unbelievable.

Thanks for being so candid and not lying about how wonderful every day with kids isn't. I appreciate your honesty as it helps me feel much more normal.

Love you and miss you.

Anonymous said...

Wow! That little boy is growing up so fast! What a cutie!

Mish said...

Oh! I miss him so much. So glad to hear he's gotten his act together in the last few weeks.

sara said...

So cute! I love his huge open mouth smile. We all should smile like that. Despite the challenges, I'm glad he exists - so that I may have joy.
Good post!

megantonesforever said...

Wow, he has grown up! He really looks like a little boy and not a baby in the last pic. I'm glad you wrote candidly about your baby. It's good to here, because being a mom is sometimes so, so, hard!

Kallista said...

Those are all adorable pictures! Hope you are enjoying Arizona!

Joe and Christie said...

Love your writing, T. Makes me laugh (and mist) every time.

You are to be commended for surviving the year that was Charlie. But it now appears that he is aging like a fine sparkling cider. Huzzah!

Joe and Christie said...

P.S. Charlie's growing hair! It's faint, but I can see it!!

Tana said...

You always do such a beautiful job of expressing your thoughts and feelings. I can't believe how Charlie has changed from a cute and squishy baby to such a lean and handsome boy.

Amy said...

You are so brave to lay it all out on your blog like that. I think mom's need to know that if their life isn't perfect, they are not alone. You are a trooper!!! Everyone looks so happy in the photos ;-)

Your parties are so amazing. Truly, outstanding. I am so impressed. Are you being serious that I can borrow that cool banner? You know, just in case I ever get that ambitious . . . I'll let you know!